Growing up, I was probably no more than fourteen when I read  Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Nearly everyone has heard of the movie, but what I read was the book – a ground-breaking science fiction masterpiece. The movie barely touched on the intricacies of the story, and depicted only a tiny fraction of the book. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly. One particular mantra, courtesy of the Bene Gesserit, was repeated over and over throughout the book. That saying has stayed with me for years. It goes like this…

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

This morning my husband Dave was reading an article written by his teacher, a master of many martial arts including Tai Chi, Chi Gung, Ba Gua, and countless others. Dave studied under him for nearly two decades and recently opened his own business, Kansas City Chi Gung, and teaches Tai Chi and Chi Gung. In the article, Dave’s teacher, Bruce Kumar Frantzis, drew a direct line between Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and Taoism and as I heard those words repeated I thought about reading them so long ago and how I have learned to embrace them in recent years.

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

Those words resonated through me and I found myself asking, “How often does fear stop us from becoming what we are meant to be?”

Think about that for a moment.

Fear of the unknown…

Fear of the “Well, what if…”

Fear of the “I’ve never done that, how will I succeed?”

We learn doubts and find ourselves consumed with fear at such a young age. At three, my daughter is already showing the signs of it. She will bring me a pen, marker, or crayon and say, “Draw an ‘A’, Mama.”

“Would you like me to help you draw an ‘A’ Emily?”

“No Mama, I CAN’T draw.”

She always looks sad and scared and I wonder where it came from. It wasn’t anything her dad or I said, and I can’t imagine a teacher or other family member being anything but positive and supportive.

I tell her, “Your big sister didn’t know how to draw once. But you know what? She kept trying, and she kept getting better, and now she draws beautifully. You can learn anything you want to and are willing to try at.” She nods and sometimes she lets me guide her hand, other times not.

What is it about us? Why do we stand in our own way? Is it cultural? Is it environmental? Is it biological? It seems as if sometimes our unconscious simply generate roadblocks where there is nothing but level land to walk on.

How about an example of what I mean? Okay, here goes…

I recently decided to represent myself in an upcoming court case. I checked out a book on the particular subject (one of the NOLO series) and began to read through it, looking at all of the forms I would have to fill out and learning the lingo…pro se – to represent yourself. I paged through the schedules, read the descriptions, and I was feeling good. I understood this, it wasn’t terribly difficult, and I felt capable. Right about the point that my feeling of capable was at its zenith, I got lost and didn’t understand a particular form. Was this something I needed to fill out? What did this form mean? I set the book down in a fluster and walked away.

Folks, I walked away for THREE days. I couldn’t bring myself to touch the book. In other words, I had allowed the fear to consume me. What did I know about law? How could I even consider representing myself? What if I filled out the forms wrong and the financial and legal ramifications were significant? If I screwed up and it meant us losing a significant amount of money or with judgments against us, I wouldn’t just be harming me, I’d be harming the financial future of our family. My little girl. My husband. My grown daughter who is hoping for a little bit of help with college if I can swing it.

But then I was reminded of a completely separate incident. One I have quoted before, but it bears repeating. A few years ago I wanted to get my recliner re-upholstered. But I knew nothing about it and there were few books on the subject with enough photos for me to be able to follow. I didn’t want to pay an exorbitant amount for someone to do it for me, so I needed to somehow swing it myself. My mother said, “Honey, someone put it together once, you can take it apart.” And that one sentence was IT. That was the impetus I needed to move forward.

And as I thought about the legal paperwork, those words ran through my head and I thought, “Others have done this. And if they could do it, then so can I.” I sat down and I began pushing through the paperwork, one schedule and addendum at a time. It took hours, but I finished them all. When the fear or confusion came I researched the lingo through the internet and made sure I understood what the questions were asking. I pushed aside the fear and allowed reason and questions and learning to roll through.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear stops us from accomplishing the unknowable, from learning in the moment, from living lives freer than what we have now.

Don’t let fear stop you. Recognize it for what it is and choose to believe in your capabilities, in the you, and the bright tomorrow that you can effect change in. Do not let fear kill your dreams or stifle your ambition. Know that you are capable of so much more and do not allow it to control the outcome of your future. Let it pass through you.

When it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.